Wednesday, 28 October 2009

You wish you had a camera

Sometimes you do something that is such a combination of luck and mad skills that it should have been caught on film.

My poor blue land rover broke a few days ago (see knackered prop shaft) so it was parked up across town getting fixed. Today then I was stuck at home with no transport.
Luckily though at around 2 I got a welcomed call from the 4x4 centre (about 12km away) who had done a rapid job repairing the beast and it was ready to go. How to get across?


It's been raining heavily in Scotland for the past 2 weeks so the bike paths are a mess, this however seemed fun so I kitted up and headed out on my bike. About 8km of the journey is on an old railway line (that the Queen used to travel on) that takes me from my house all the way into town to Duthie Park. As you approach the park though it gets pretty congested so you constantly have to dodge delinquents, pensioners and dog walkers ... an acquired skill.

There is a sharp downhill right hand 90 degree bend just before the end of the path that takes you down into the park itself. As I was approaching I saw 2 huge people (5ft5 and 250+lbs) out for a crawl and quickly had to make a I slow down (again) and wait to be let past, or do I keep on at full pelt (30kph) and try and squeeze by. I chose the latter option and kept on at full speed, dodged right JUST missing the elbow of woman #1 and managed to squeeze by ... though chased by a torrent of foul mouthed abuse from the two characters.

Having not thought this through properly I was then still at full speed but now FAR too close to the sharp downhill fact I was already on the downhill. This meant 1 thing, RACING TURN. Now, a full speed racing turn is one thing, in the dry on a Cervelo with Zipps. BUT pulling off a racing turn at 30kph on a mountain bike on a slippy path covered in leaves...going downhill is quite another.

It turned out pretty much the only way it was going to. I flicked the bike left, dropped my right knee and pushed the bike across the path towards the apex of the turn. Immediately I knew I had done a bad thing, my back wheel decided to start a race with my front wheel...the "who can end up in the park first" race.

With the back of the bike quickly moving towards where the front should have been something amazing happened. In the split second when I would normally have just gone "oh, I'm going to fall again" I had an epiphany. Suddenly I was no longer the unsure biker of old, in that split second I became some sort of ninja rider. My right foot was coming off of the pedal, my front brake was being applied, my weight was shifting, I was no longer out of control, this was awesome I thought.

It only got better though, due to the slipperiness of the leaves on the path, my quick decision making which had instigated a masterful save of my impending bike crash had turned from a cleverly planned manoeuvre into a freestyle bike trick! My bike should technically have come to a stop facing side-on half way down the hill with my right foot on the ground - uphill of the bike. BUT NO! In my ninja-esk manoeuvre the bike continued to rotate around the front wheel and the back just kept on spinning. Before I knew it I was still in the saddle facing back up the hill, right foot still on the ground (pivot point!), but we kept on moving until I finally came to a stop facing back down the hill. A FULL 360.

By this point I was screaming in a fit of joy hoping some unsuspecting film crew who were about to film a short documentary had managed to catch it all on camera. Unfortunately there were no cameramen in sight, so I quickly looked around. The two irate and overweight walkers were still slowly approaching...probably still shouting and cursing me for my earlier overtaking trick, when I span around and gave them a look which said "aaaaaah did you see that!?" ...

...unfortunately they had. Instead of appreciating it for what a combo of luck, leaf positioning and skill it had been they somehow perceived it as some kind of celebration dance for the earlier manoeuvre and near miss I had pulled off in passing them. It just seemed to make them even more mad and their earlier waddle had now turned into an almost walk...time to make a quick exit I thought.

Very very fun though, put a smile on my face for an hour or two.

After that I made my way to the car garage and recovered my car, its back in the driveway and it feels good to be with a mode of transport again.


It's amazing how easily you get used to luxuries, a car, ipod, laptop etc. My laptop also broke last week (motherboard) so it is also being repaired...or if the PC World Insurance policy is any good...replaced. But just as you feel lost without your item you very quickly get used to coping without it.

Humans were not meant to be reliant on mobile phones, google or xbox360, we were meant to be outside, working hard or inside thinking hard. Happily, most of my days consist of quite a few hours outside (and in a pool) working hard with an equal number inside thinking. Very often my brain struggles with the thoughts, some are too complex and require more understanding, others just struggle due to long days. Even more often my body struggles with the hard work of training, some sessions are testing, pushing new limits and building new fitness. Others though are just tough because I'm tired, mentally and physically.

Being tired though is an amazing feeling, it makes everything seem better. Warm water, clean clothes, food, bedtime or just 5 minutes to relax all seem better when you are worn out.

If you look at the news these days, read the papers or even just listen in on peoples conversations at work, on the bus or in the shops it seems as if maybe people need to get back to basics and appreciate the simple things once more. Something that tests you physically or mentally WILL tire you out, it maybe wont be fun at first but the simple rewards in day to day life it might bring about are worth it a million times over.
Humans are meant for hard work and challenge, so we might as well try it out.

Personally I'm wrecked after all those insane bike tricks today!


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Horror movies, the Panther and a smashed old lady


What a day. I forgot how Scotland's weather can go from one extreme to another in hours, we've just had a week or so of stunning winter weather, 15 degrees and sunny, very very rare this far north.

Weeelll this all changed today, winds picked up over night and a massive rain storm moved in. According to the met office it's due to stick around at least until early next week, but today alone we had 70mm of rain.

The rainiest place in the ENTIRE WORLD only gets an average of 32.5mm a it was pretty nuts here today. Luckily my huge blue truck proved a worthy match for the weather and could be seen storming through road floods in the afternoon, sending gallons of water high into the air...and over the nice people on the pavement :)

An afternoon run/evening bike was on the cards for the day, with the evening session being my weekly indoor trainer set (so no wet riding today thankfully). I headed to the Lonehead forest at the top of Bieldside for my afternoon run set, having never ran there before I was pretty excited to see what the terrain was like.

I left the house around 4pm just as it was starting to get pretty dark and the rain was turning on the taps. I should have realised at this point that my outfit was slightly intimidating but I'll leave that description for later...

I did my best to warm up before I left so when I arrived in the car park I got straight to it, headed right into the trees. There was a pretty clear path setup so I just followed the markers and didn't pay too much attention to the surroundings. Before I knew it I was right in the centre of the forest and trust me, it was creepy. The trees were super dense so no light was being let in, both from above and around, so when you looked out into the trees it was just black, I really should have had my headlight on. It definitely resembled a horror movie one point I was a little scared, thinking a crazy dude would run out of the trees at any moment. But I would quickly find out it wasn't me that had to be scared...

I started doing the main part of my run set which involved some shorter fast efforts, the forest was pretty bumpy so some reps were uphill, some on the flat and some sent me shooting down the path on pretty slippy descents. Trust me I didn't think anyone else would be out on the trails walking today, I was pretty confident I was alone.

My outfit.

In hindsight I looked like a murderer, full black compression top with black gloves and a full winter balaclava covering my whole face...except my eyes. So here I was, shooting along at full pelt, covered in rain and mud, head to toe in black with a BALACLAVA on and I find myself starting to slip as I run down a small hill. Well just as I get to the bottom I almost lose my footing and let out a quick shout "ahhh".

I'm laughing even as I write, because then to my surprise I almost run head on into couple out walking along but frozen solid in the middle of the path looking like they are about to be killed!

Imagine the sight, they're just out for a nice walk when all of a sudden they see this maniac running at full speed down the hill with this intense look on his face wearing all black, black gloves and a balaclava...who then as he approaches proceeds to shout!

Oh dear. It took me a while to realise why they looked so scared, but once I did I had a good laugh...then got on with the rest of my run, training like a panther as usual.

Got home, a good stretch, quick snack, showered off, compression socks then ready for the trainer set. The last week in this first block of harder Wednesday night trainer efforts so was a good hour or so of work, rocking the LIVESTRONG kit too, represent :]

Once I finished I had unclipped from the Cervelo and proceeded to swing my back leg over the saddle. In a fit of joy I decided to swipe at a figurine of an old lady with my shoe and knocked her straight off the shelf ...smashing into a million bits. Let's hope my mum doesn't read my blog eh!


Muddy Muddy Muddy

I was even freaking myself out!

Unhappy legs

Happy legs

Quick stop at the painting to pay my respects

Setting up the S2

Rocking out the main set

My main set stare, straight ahead, no distractions

Head down @120RPM!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Training like a panther

I'm definitely in a delirious state (which explains the panther) as I write having just come back in from the HARDEST cross training/core work out of my life.

Today was a tough enough day as it stood, 6500m in the water from 545am this morning riding this afternoon with some decent upper level efforts out near Banchory. The week in general, well into my first big phase of the winter, has been tough and will continue to pile on top of itself each week, until the easy week that is. Soon enough.

So tonight's set. I managed, for sure, and will happily do it again next week, but it was tough n' that's a welcomed change. It's definitely been a while since I did a set that made me want to puke, twice, and left me shaking over 2 hours after it finished. I was sweating within the first 3 minutes I'd say and my arms were shaking pretty soon after.

I hardly ever sweat - so at the point I was skidding along the floor on my shins due to the sweat I knew it was bloody tough. 45 mins including a mixture of run sprints, 24inch free standing squat jumps, boxing combo's (with gloves) and kicks, ab work with punches, more of the same, 10secs rest, more of the same, twice, again, and again, maybe another 10secs rest...maybe, then it all over again. Was freaking great.

We started off with a good 15mins of the boxing work with some serious combos working on speed towards the end, pulse was way up near the 175 mark before being able to push through that barrier and get it back down to the 140/150 region. But I love the new challenge and it was great seeing some obvious holes in my fitness, its nice to find something that you really struggle to get through...will keep you all updated on how next week goes.


PS. Thanks to SLS TRI for the awesome new recovery wear I received today, rocking the comp socks as we speak -

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Illness, Injury & Ironman


With an estimated 60,000 cases of swine flu confirmed in the past 3 weeks alone the UK is definitely not in it's best health. Last Tuesday in class at uni I was surrounded by coughing and was definitely feeling a bit paranoid about the risk of catching something, unfortunately my worries were justified and come Thursday afternoon I had a severe tickle in my throat, by Friday morning I had a classic case of the MAN COLD.

The man cold (noun): referring to the common cold, symptoms include sore throat, coughing, blocked nose, sore eyes, ears and swollen glands. Can only be contracted by a man (any male over the age of 18) and generally goes hand in hand with a complete denial that they are in any way of ill health.

I had a man cold.

It arrived on Thursday night and before it had settled in I was already drawing up the battle plans; lots of sleep, kiwis, oranges, lemsip, WADA approved Vicks nasal spray, warm clothes, a day off university and a couple annoyingly missed training sessions. As a lot of you know I treat any kind of illness as a challenge, maybe even a fight. I get genuinely offended that something thinks it has the right to invade my body and stop me living my life, not literally but figuratively, I have to stop what I love doing (training) and do something else. That constitutes as an act of war.

So Friday morning rolled around and I was ready to fight. Now I give my coach full credit, on the phone on Thursday night he did mention that if I wasn't feeling 100% to maybe give the Friday morning 6km swimming session a miss. All I heard was "maybe" so like most of us would have done I woke up at 0455 as per usual and headed to the pool. This turned out to be a bad idea and 4km later I had exited early and was making a B-line for my bed.

2 hoodies on, PJ's, nasal spray, box of tissues and plenty of water...I was ready for my bed. By 11am the man cold had taken over and I was losing hope. I had literally been "ill" for 5 hours and already I had forgot what it was like to be healthy, though I was still insisting I was in perfect health (much to my mum's amusement). As the day marched on and I began trolling through youtube videos and festering on facebook I actually started to feel a bit better, energy levels were back up, the throat wasn't quite as tickley and I had stopped going through tissues at an incredible rate. This was more like it, I was winning.

Come 10pm and confidence was high, I knew my immune system was too well looked after for it to roll over that easily, in the morning I'd be back on track. As the sun rose on Saturday I rolled over to find my nose is once again blocked, not to worry I think and I head for the nasal spray (WADA approved if I haven't already mentioned!). Quick shower, big breakfast, lots of water, fresh air and what do you 2pm I'm back to normal.

The point in my little ramble? Any obstacle or problem along the way, no matter how little or massive it may seem, is just another challenge. Training is a challenge, racing, eating right, sleeping right...all challenges. But it doesn't stop there, being healthy is one of the most important parts of daily life and staying healthy is most definitely a massive challenge. ESPECIALLY when those around you are not. Getting ill can be seen as a "problem" and people can often roll over and be out of sync for weeks. But if it can be treated as a an unscheduled training session of sorts, where the aim is to get back to 100% as quickly as possible. It can turn from being a negative experience to a positive process.

Bringing me nicely onto my next topic: Injury

Essentially in the same category as illness, an injury is a major hurdle. I've been there and done that maaaaany times, no doubt there will be more to come, maybe next week (hopefully not) or maybe in 5 years but they will come. Just as illness is concerned an injury will pass, even though it feels like it will never leave. I guess that's the biggest challenge, convincing yourself that it's not the end of the road. Being able to put up a decent fight, do the recovery, find the root cause, fix it and get back to work like nothing happened, that's what makes a champ.

But of course if you can avoid the injury in the first place, problem avoided. So here I am, on a journey through winter training, no end in sight but with 2 omnipresent parts to my training that are essential yet unspoken. Stay healthy and keep injuries at bay, for as long as I can. Ideally though I will avoid them for a long time and I am taking many steps to do just that. My new diet is in place, filling me up with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, fruit, veg and all the other things to boost my fatiguing immune system as the winter goes on. Also my new strength & conditioning programme is in full swing, ironing out all my imbalances, building on weak areas and strengthening up my

So that's where we're at, a constant fight against potentially training crippling illnesses that seem to be everywhere while still getting in the hard training that if not treated properly could end up pushing me too far and leading to an injury. So it's definitely a fine balance, push hard but take care of yourself. And trust me the two and so veeery counter intuitive.

Again bringing me nicely to my third and very important subject of the day IRONMAN. Yesterday was the 31st Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and my first experience of watching the event unfold live online. As a lot of you know August was my first Ironman as a spectator in Penticton, BC. It rocked, see:
for the blog post on that weekend, I loved it.
I'm not sure if I'll be able to do justice to how awesome last night was, I will however...try :)

The race started at 6pm Scotland time and I had everything set up, my balance ball, resistance bands and medicine ball (all in case I needed to do a quick workout while watching), speedtheory water bottles, snacks, a trisuit (in case I felt the need to dress up) and the dog...another avid fan.
I wont try and describe the whole race and how it unfolded but I will give a brief outline of the main points. In the men's race last years winner Craig "Crowie" Alexander was the odds on favourite to defend his title as was back to back champ 07/08 Chrissie Wellington in the women's field. Both were successful, unsurprisingly but that was not where the impressions were made.

Chris Lieto a long time Ironman and an Uber biker went off the front on the 112 mile bike and held his lead on the marathon to within striking distance of the finish line, he finished second by 2 minutes. Awesome athlete and I hope he gets his win one day.

Chrissie Wellington really blew it away in the women's we all expected. Coming out of the water a few minutes back on the lead she proceeded to cut through the rest of the women's field on the bike leg like a sharp knife through nutella. Impressive! With an 11 minute lead heading out onto the marathon she held 6"30 miles and finished with an awesome 20 minute cushion. Something about seeing someone just do their own thing, a league above everyone else and love every minute is pretty cool.

The history of the race is enough to make your hairs stand up on end, let alone seeing it unfold in real time. Those guys out there yesterday were putting it all out on the pavement, if they blew up they did it for everyone to see, but if they did everything right and strung together just the kind of race they was a good day. And boy did some of those guys have good days, there were a few tough days too though. OK, a lot of tough days.

It's enough to make me absolutely certain of the fact that I HAVE to do an Ironman and pretty certain that I'd want to get my butt to Hawaii at some point too. It didn't take a lot of persuasion but here I am, head over heals for triathlon and already pledging my allegiance to the Queen-K...even though I think she'll have to wait a few years.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Day in pictures

Yesterday, October 8th, I was asked to try and record my normal day in pictures. This seemed fun, and it was, despite the fact I failed miserably by ceasing the picture record around 4pm.

My day consisted of:

Wake up @455
Swim 0545-0745
#picture in car park at 0800
Breakfast at uni mates house
#picture of fruit salad looking tasty
Stroll through 500year old campus on the way to first tutorial
#lottts of pictures
Head home for lunch and studying
Afternoon ride @1330
#picture crazy
Evening track workout

... this is when i forgot to keep taking pictures, at the track workout I was pretty tired so not in the picture mood anyway...but still, could have taken a few. In all I took about 80pictures in 10 hours (8/hour for those doing the mental maths :P) so thought I'd share a few on my blog.

Truck and the morning sunrise at 0800, Swimming pool car park, familiar sight @northfieldswimmingpool

Brought fruit from home to make my morning concoction, 2kiwis, 20raspberrys, 10strawberrys @peteshouse

Entrance to University Halls of Residence, Crombie-Johnston @universityofaberdeen

Number on the left? 1494, year the university was founded, 5th oldest university in Great Britain, 41st oldest in the world @kingscollege

New Kings college, founded 1912 @newkings

The Quad and Kings in the background @kingscollege
Awesome Scots Bakery @universityhighstreet

Chancellors Mansion, you can see his Audi R8 in the driveway at weekends! @universityhighstreet

On the quad walking to Kings @kingscollege

The interior quad of Kings College, Hogwarts anyone? @kingscollege

I'm sure I saw Harry Potter somewhere @kingscollege

Onto the bike later on in the day, climbing the Durris hill @durris

Some nice lodgings along the way @durris

Actually raining in this pic, hence the tongue out in protest @royaldeeisde

Into the woods @lochton
See, rain+sun=rainbow @kirktonofdurris
LAMAS @crathes

more LAMAS! @crathes

beautiful day @park

speeding home, notice - boot covers, gloves, full bib tights, may be sunny, still 7 degrees @speedingdowntheroad

Over and out

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Training pictures 1

First batch of winter training pics from Scotland, woke up to an awesome morning in Aberdeen, 4 Degrees, blue skies as far as the eye can see and the prospect of my first LONG RUN of the season. Capitals letters are justified due to the fact that until this point the concept of a long run has not really been made clear to me. A long run to a swimmer is about 20 minutes, last season it meant 10km, this winter it will be different.

Drove out to Scolty hill in Banchory for 100mins of running around the wilderness, I climbed the hill 3 times and in the process met most of the people out for their morning walks at least twice...some good comments as I ran past each time. Was a stunning day and captured as much of it as I could on my camera, at one point my phone and car keys fell out of my pockets and I had to back track 3km to find them, no robbers out in the woods this morning...phew.

Take a look :)

Heading into the Scolty Forrest, sun out, blue skies

The Dee Valley towards Torphins

Heather covered hills

Hills towards Laurencekirk, Clachnaben and Cairn O'mount

General Bernett's monument on top of Scolty, aka "Scotly tower"

View of Banchory village from the hill

View down to Strachen

Me looking grizzly 85mins into the run

My truck looking just as grizzly sitting in the car park

Aaaaalmost as cool as my S2, almost.